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Pervis Staples, co-founder of The Staple Singers, dead at 85

Pervis Staples, right, with The Staple Singers, circa 1970; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Pervis Staples, a founding member of the famous Chicago-based gospel and soul group The Staple Singers, died May 6, at his home in Dolton, Illinois, at age 85, Rolling Stone reports.

The Staple Singers were a family act formed by Pervis’ father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and also originally featuring Pervis’ sisters Mavis and Cleotha. Pervis, who sang backing vocals in the group, was replaced in 1968 by another sister, Yvonne.

Mavis paid tribute to her brother in a statement that reads, “Pervis was one of a kind — comical and downright fly. He would want to be remembered as an upright man, always willing to help and encourage others. He was one of the good guys and will live on as a true Chicago legend.”

The Staple Singers initially were a popular gospel act that took part in many civil rights rallies and protests, often with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The group eventually began recording secular soul and R&B music, and went on to score a series of major hits during the 1970s.

In journalist Greg Cot‘s 2014 book about Mavis and The Staple Singers, I’ll Take You There, Cot noted that it was Pervis, who as a young man was friends with such soul greats as Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls, who encouraged his family group to move in a more secular direction during the 1960s.

After leaving the group, Pervis managed a Chicago act called The Hutchinson Sunbeams that later became The Emotions, and he also opened a successful Chicago nightclub.

Pervis was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with The Staple Singers in 1998, and the group was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Pervis’ death leaves Mavis as the last surviving Staple Singers member.

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